Last Saturday night couldn’t have felt too good for Gator fans. Georgia won, FSU won, and worst of all, Florida didn’t, thanks to some truly nasty weather in Alachua County.
But what turned out to be one rung shy of a Category Five hurricane didn’t stop thousands of fans from staying put in their seats and screaming for their beloved Gators despite the Gators’ game against Idaho getting repeatedly delayed. In All Kinds Of Weather is the name of the site, and when Ryan (graciously) rebuilt it for me when I left Alligator Army to start my own site, I had the chance to rename it. This is my site, and thus my show, but I chose to keep the same name he chose when he built the first version of this site because the Gators truly do have the best fans in sports.
Meet Claudia Velasquez, a sophomore at UF. She and her friend were among the large crowd of Gators that stuck it out through the dangerous electric storm as kickoff time got pushed back more times than a Sunday evening flight out of Atlanta. But Claudia was the one who grew somewhat famous by tweeting this picture at 8:45:
— 🦋subpoena colaudia, Esq.🦋 (@pinacolaudiaaa_) August 31, 2014
Almost immediately, the picture began to spread through social media like a virus. Hundreds of people she didn’t know spread it around and (mostly) commented their admiration for her and her friend standing in the violent rainstorm, Gator Chomping away. It even got the attention of the Gators’ official twitter handle.
This bit of undying fandom was too much for me to ignore, and you know how much I love a good story about how big of a Gator fan somebody is, so I reached out to Claudia via email and discussed her newfound fame, the moment of the picture, and the conditions in the Swamp that led the game to eventually be called off (for those who weren’t there).
Me: You were (obviously) at the game. Lots of Gator fans were not. Could you briefly describe the weather patterns in Gainesville from about 6pm onwards?
Claudia: Once in the stadium at around 6, I looked up at the sky and saw typical Florida conditions: the left half was clear as could be, but the right side was covered in dark clouds with lightning striking every few seconds. With the announcement of the first half hour delay, the clouds just started rolling in to cover the entire stadium and right around 7:50 (from what I remember) or so, it just started pouring with thunder and lightening striking so often that people were scared to sit on the metal bleachers. As the rain got heavier, the chants got louder and it rained for about forty minutes or so. Close to nine it started sprinkling but the lightning wouldn’t stop. It cleared out for a bit enough for them to play but once the lightning hit, the hurricane-like conditions came back harder than ever for the rest of the night. The rain just got harder every time it decided to fall.
Me: Describe the moments leading up to the picture.
Claudia: It’s going to sound so corny, but I remember it all too perfectly. The rain was coming down so hard that I contemplated going under shelter, but I looked around and everyone was yelling at the top of their lungs. They were all chanting “I SAID IT’S GREAT TO BE A FLORIDA GATOR” and wouldn’t stop unless thunder roared, and in that case, everyone would scream “YEAAAA” and then go back to chanting. Feeling the cold rain coming down with all that power yet seeing so many people suck it up and cheer for the Gators was such a strong feeling. I felt it in my veins and I just looked at Brooke (the other girl in the picture) and shouted that this was the best college experience I’ve had solely because the ambience was just so overwhelmingly full of pride. I was scared to take my phone out but at that point, I decided my love for the Gators and our unity was worth it and realized how badly I needed to capture a picture. We didn’t even pose for it, we just kept chanting with everyone and told our friend to take as many pictures as posible and hoped that we’d look decent in one of them.
Me: Twitter says it was taken at 8:45pm. You’d already been waiting about an hour, yet you and your friend looked more than ready to see some football. The UAA and SEC have regulations on how long the wait can be during a delay, but how much longer were you realistically willing to wait?
Claudia: Honestly, I’d do anything for the Gators, rain is just rain compared to all the great things I’ve discovered here. Once it started pouring, we agreed that we’d stay until either some football was played or they kicked us out. Which is exactly what we did; once you’re shivering and drenched in rain water for an hour, what’s a few more? We stayed until the official announcement was made that there would be a game. The few seconds we did have were beyond worth it. Especially after it being a hit on twitter (which was unexpected), I realized that I was doing it for more fans that I originally thought. All the support made it easier and much more fun to stay.
Me: The few seconds you got to see included a pooch kick to the rather appropriately named Valdez Showers, who reversed fields and took off. What went through your head as he turned it upfield? And describe the crowd’s reaction?
Claudia: I actually have that moment saved because I recorded and saved it off my Snapchat! As it was all happening, the crowd and I became one big blob of pride, excitement, and astonishment. We were jumping up and down yelling “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS” the entire time and screaming to the point that I saw some faces get red, including my own. Every one was high fiving each other saying “and THAT’S how Gators start a football game!”. Those few seconds were enough to prove to the world why so many of us waited in those stands, we’re on a revenge tour and even in the rain we gave everyone a few moments to look forward to for the rest of the season. It was a “yes, this is why I’m here and why I”m staying here” moment. I knew I wasn’t crazy for staying once that all happened.
Me: And after Showers’ return, the game, got called. Your reaction to that?
Claudia: The idea of getting into warm clothes made the disappointment a bit better, but we all knew it was bound to happen. Once it hit 10pm, everyone left knew it was a done deal but we stayed just for the support of our team. Why leave then? It was bittersweet because from a sports perspective, playing in those conditions was going to be unnecessarily tough and even though we were all loud, the Gators deserve to have their stadium filled and at that point it wasn’t. But at the same time, I wish it could’ve gone on.
Me: We all know why it didn’t continue, though: lightning strikes, in a stadium filled with metal bleachers, is not something you screw with. But knowing it was in the area the whole time, were you worried at all about, or even considering the (admittedly small) possibility of lightning hitting the stadium out of nowhere and being hurt?
Claudia: The first half hour I decided it wasn’t really smart to sit on metal bleachers but after a while, that faded. Actually, the most danger in that stadium at the moment was slipping and falling when we were all jumping on top of the bleachers. That was what everyone was scared of, including myself. That and the fear of letting the beach ball being thrown around land on the field. The possibility of getting sick was definitely worth worrying about but those were all worries that lasted no longer than 5 minutes.
Me: So basically what you’re saying is that you had no worries about being sick or hurt. Or at least they took a back seat to the prospect at seeing some Florida Gators football.
Claudia: Whatever worries about health and safety I had were nothing compared to the love I have for Gator football and for the Gator Nation as a whole, in all kinds of weather right?
Me: That’s the motto! So one more question about the picture itself: you got hundreds of RT’s and favorites, and comments on the tweet ranged from great admiration (including one from the UAA’s twitter handle!) to guys hitting on you. Did you expect any of this at all?
Claudia: Haha! The feedback I got was shocking! I didn’t expect it at all! I honestly took that picture just to capture the moment for my own satisfaction and memory, one for the Gator fans back at home. But then my phone started going off and I was just jumping up and down shouting from excitement once I got notifications from all of UF’s official twitters and the UAA as well, no joke. I was just jumping up and down screen shotting their mentions and feedback because I could not believe it. The guys hitting on me were quite comedic, that was definitely not what I thought would happen. The greatest part of this all was that I didn’t intend for all this to happen- all the feedback and support- I just wanted to show the Gators some love! Seeing so many people I don’t know connect together over an unintentional picture posted by me was just proof that the Gator Nation is everywhere.
Me: Well, the Gators showed you some love in return. You’ve become a miniature celebrity among Gator fans. What other games are you going to this year?
Claudia: Luckily for me, my birthday is this coming Saturday which is also the day of the UF vs Eastern Michigan game so I’ll definitely be there. I’ll be uploading chomping pictures under the hot sun and in all the other varying weather conditions that’ll come with this football season thanks to my season tickets. I’ll also be attending some away games, like the game in Jacksonville.
Me: That’s awesome! We look forward to seeing you! I went through all the possibilities of what may become of Florida-Idaho. Your turn to play Gators blogger: what do you THINK should happen, and what do you WANT to happen?
Claudia: From what I think should happen, I think it would be best to just make it a no-contest but of course I would WANT to see the game go on just because I’m so emotionally invested into it, haha! But I’m sure it’s much easier to just call it a no-contest. I’m eager to find out though!
As am I.